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Health Highlights: Feb. 11, 2011

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Syphilis Test Wrong in One-Fifth of Cases: CDC

A common test for syphilis often gives incorrect results and hundreds of people in the United States may have mistakenly been told they have the sexually transmitted disease, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency said a study of five U.S. labs found that about 18 percent of the positive results from the test were actually negative, the Associated Press reported.

The test has been used since the 1980s and is given to all pregnant women and people considered high-risk for STDs. People who test positive for syphilis usually receive penicillin, which can cause side effects in some patients.

The CDC said it doesn't know how widely used this test is compared to another method. The agency recommends a second test when there is a positive result, the AP reported.


Job Seekers Facing Tougher Anti-Smoking Rules

An increasing number of U.S. hospitals and medical businesses are implementing policies that make smoking a reason to deny a person a job.

The goal of the new rules, which essentially regard cigarettes like an illegal narcotic, is to boost worker productivity, reduce health care costs, and encourage healthier living, according to The New York Times.

The measures include job applications that warn candidates about "tobacco-free hiring," requiring job seekers to have a urine test for nicotine, and firing employees who are caught smoking.

The tougher rules may reflect frustration with less-effective programs such as smoking bans, cessation programs and increased health care premiums for smokers, The Times reported.


Montana's Medical Marijuana Law Faces Repeal

Montana's six-year-old medical marijuana law may be repealed.

On Thursday, the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted 63 to 37 to repeal the law. The move to repeal the bill will also be considered by the State Senate, also controlled by the Republicans, The New York Times reported.

It's not clear what will happen if the bill to repeal the medical marijuana law makes it to the desk of Gov. Brian Schweitzer, a Democrat. While he believes the medical marijuana laws need to be tightened, he hasn't announced his position on repeal.

Currently, 15 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana, The Times reported.


Nearly Four Million U.S. Adults Treated for Kidney Disease Each Year

An average of 3.7 million adults in the United States were treated for kidney disease each year between 2003 and 2007, according to a federal government report.

Kidney disease, which can be caused by high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, may lead to kidney failure.

Between 2003 and 2007, spending for treatment of kidney disease averaged $25.3 billion (in 2007 dollars) per year. About half of the annual cost ($12.7 billion) was for outpatient care, $9.1 billion was for hospitalization, $1.5 billion for emergency room care, and $1.4 billion for prescription drugs.

Yearly per-patient costs averaged $16,315 for hospitalization, $4,581 for outpatient care, $1,607 for emergency department care, and $643 for prescription drugs, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


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Posted: February 2011